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Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Being prepared by someone who knows

The military commander who helped bring order to New Orleans in the chaotic days after Hurricane Katrina in 2005 told people at a Baton Rouge luncheon on hurricane preparedness issues Saturday to start right away getting ready for the next potential disaster.

“I often say people in south Louisiana get more excited about getting ready for football season than getting ready for hurricane season,” retired Lt. Gen. Russel L. Honoré said. He was addressing a crowd of about 100 representatives of church groups and faith-based organizations at the Hilton Hotel in downtown Baton Rouge.

But the cost of waiting to prepare is high, he said.

“Every one dollar you spend on prevention saves you nine dollars later,” Honoré said, a factoid he repeated several times during his remarks.

The military commander who helped bring order to New Orleans in the chaotic days after Hurricane Katrina in 2005 told people at a Baton Rouge luncheon on hurricane preparedness issues Saturday to start right away getting ready for the next potential disaster.

But the cost of waiting to prepare is high, he said.

“Every one dollar you spend on prevention saves you nine dollars later,” Honoré said, a factoid he repeated several times during his remarks.

The occasion was a conference organized by the Baton Rouge Area Foundation. It brought together faith-based groups in hopes of improving the response to future disasters.

Honoré and Atlanta Journal-Constitution reporter Ron Martz are co-authors of a recent book on this subject, “Survival: How a Culture of Preparedness Can Save You and Your Family from Disasters.” Honoré, who retired from the U.S. Army late last year after 37 years of service, autographed copies before his address.

Honoré acknowledged he was born in 1947 in the midst of a hurricane at Lakeland, a small town in Pointe Coupee Parish. “People had to learn to live on their own,” at the time, Honoré said. “There was no one expecting the next day that the government would come fly in and help.”

Honoré’s message of self-reliance was mirrored by other speakers Saturday.

“Every disaster response is local. It’s up to us to take care of our people,” said Mike Manning, president and chief executive officer of the Greater Baton Rouge Food Bank.

Honoré told a story to illustrate the importance of self-reliance. He said that last year, after Hurricane Gustav, he visited a cousin of his in Baton Rouge who complained that the federal government was slow to provide water and blue tarps in the wake of that storm.

Then, the cousin showed off his recreational vehicle that he uses to go tailgating at LSU games, his bass boat and several all-terrain vehicles.

Honoré’s reaction was not positive.

“You need to get rid of some of this junk,” he recalled telling his cousin. “You need to buy you some tarps. You need to get a generator and get a truckload of water.”

He said his cousin has since purchased a generator. More people with means should follow suit, he said.

“Those people need to take care of themselves, and then we need their energy to take care of the rest of us, that third of America: the elderly, the disabled and the poor,” Honoré said.

That third he described as those who live on “railroad street” as opposed to those on the better-known Wall and Main streets. He said no one wants live next to a railroad, and the ones who do are the ones who can’t afford not to.

“We’ve got to do something about Railroad Street because there’s not enough (of) you to take care of all them,” Honoré said, directing his comment to his audience.

Honoré at times expressed impatience at what he saw as the failure of too many to have common sense in regard to coping with natural disasters.

For instance, why, he wondered, don’t gas stations and drug stores all have generators so they can continue to operate and supply critical fuel and prescription drugs during emergencies?

He recalled how a Louisiana legislator proposed a “generator law” that would require such purchases by stores — it later failed — and wanted Honoré to testify on its behalf. Honoré was nonplussed.

“Why do I have to come and speak to you all about that? You mean I have to convince you that you need a generator law?” he said he asked the lawmaker.

Honoré lives in Georgia now, but said he’s in the process of moving to Baton Rouge, where he plans to shake things up.

“I know you all look happy,” Honoré said, “but I have a tendency to make people uncomfortable because we’re going to get some damn stuff done!”

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Wow, the big, tough general blows his mouth off about preparedness. I wonder if he was one of the scumbag thugs violating citizen's Constitutional rights and confiscating their firearms? Yeah, Honore- just pass yet another law and everything will be alright. Moron.

erniesjourney said...

Great post! Prepared means you can sleep at night!:)

Rhino said...

thanks ernie

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